Is your library dementia friendly?

Did you know that there are dementia friendly language guidelines published by Dementia Australia?  They stress that “It is important to use language that focuses on the abilities (not deficits) of people living with dementia to help people stay positively and meaningfully engaged, and retain feelings of self-worth.”  This is a good place to start thinking about whether your library is dementia friendly and how it can help people who are living with dementia stay engaged in meaningful ways. 

People with dementia have different experiences and “the symptoms a person with dementia develops will depend on what part of their brain is affected”. This article explains further.  

Old man's hands holding a walking stick

From a library perspective, people who are caring for a person with dementia may also have needs the library can consider. The wider community could also benefit from services and resources to raise awareness and to help them become more dementia friendly. 

The following list of ideas has been compiled from a range of libraries and references. 

Some good examples of dementia friendly libraries include:  

Library spaces and furnishings 

The Sandal Library has a display of more than 100 local photographs on a rotating loop and say that “people sit in comfortable surroundings and watch them for ages”. The library also has a dementia-friendly garden.

Sandal Library chose chairs with wooden arms and non-patterned fabric because spots and stripes on chair fabrics and rugs can be confusing and detailed patterns sometimes appearing as if they are moving.  

Clocks that display the time as well as the day and date may be helpful.

Did you know that choice of colour matters? Purple, green and blue may all look the same to a person with dementia. Sandal library chose chairs which are a burgundy colour as it “symbolises joy, Christmas and all things positive”. 

Avoid pools of bright light and deep shadows. Dark rugs can look like holes in the floor.  

When using a public toilet, a person with dementia may need help from their carer. Toilets for people with disabilities are usually for both sexes and there is plenty of room for two people. Alternatively, a family or unisex toilet will allow someone to be assisted without causing embarrassment to them or another user. 

Library staff  


  • Reminiscence or Memory Boxes for loan which cover subjects like childhood, leisure, natural environment and working life. The themed resources and objects can be touched, handled and passed around to act as memory triggers to encourage communication.  
  • The memory lane collection is part of Monash Public Library Service developing a Dementia Friendly Library Service with input from Dementia Australia. 

Program ideas 


Martine Vandermaes

Hello, @ our library (Ostend, Belgium) we are exploring activities for people with dementia and their caregivers. We are especially interested in the format of your music and memory program. Having had a project called 'the forgotton orchestra' (a title chosen by the people with dementia) we are interested to learn how the libraryteam has grown profesionally in attending to members/patrons with dementia including their caregivers. Such a project challenges us and brings us out of our comfortzone. But once you step into it, it is very rewarding and we had great fun. Sharing and reflection was very important for the staff. How did your group approach this? Best regards Martine